Posts Tagged ‘Achievement’

The last couple of weeks I have had the feeling my novel is not progressing as quickly as I would like. To make my December deadline I have put my next collection of short stories on hold. I can’t see me being able to finish both in the next month. I have a draft for Small Print Vol 4, but I’m in danger of rushing the stories. I have decided to finish them up in the New Year and put them out then.

It’s interesting to see why this has come about. I am midway through the novel and the effort on the rewrite is considerable. This is due to the previous drafts suffering from fatigue brought on by reaching the midpoint in the first place. I had skipped over some challenging sections in order to keep writing and reach the end. This was in part due to being tired and because these chapters are a turning point and were difficult to get right. Of course, now I have to face them and I’m tired if not more so and the result is an impression of slowing down and grinding to a halt. I am still managing to put in the hours I have up till now; it’s simply taking longer to rewrite until I’m happy it’s as good as I can make it.

I can appreciate why writers give up at this stage. A couple of hours go by and all you have is a hundred words to show for it – it’s demoralizing. Trying to remain positive that those hundred words are the best you can do and it’s a hundred words further on is not easy. I take comfort in the fact I am still making progress and I can’t expect to make the word count as I did in the early drafts. It’s all about quality now, not quantity. All this is easy to say – believing it is difficult.

The only way to deal with this is hard work. It’s obvious, but needs stating. It is simply a matter of continuing to do what I have done up to this point and to keep at it. There is no magic solution, or easy way out. It is simply a matter of one word after another until my instinct tells me it’s right.

It’s an odd place to be in the process. I read ahead this morning and scanned over the closing chapters and liked what I saw. I’m excited for the twists and turns and the cliffhanger of an ending leading on to book two. In the early hours of this morning I doubted it was me who had written it. This is a good thing; it shows by that stage in the book I was well removed with little evidence of author intrusion. If I’m not gripped by it I can’t expect anyone else to be. I’m confident it hangs together and I’m glad the technical work of ensuring the plot makes sense and is explainable has been done. Right now though I’m tens of thousands of words away from that point and have to find the energy to keep moving through each chapter in turn until I reach the end.

The good news is since writing these notes I am through the midpoint and the draft is looking a whole lot clearer again. The writing has picked up and there are fewer rewrites to do. That difficult midpoint which can lose readers in a book has been met head on and I’m happy with the result. I’m the sort of reader, who will stick with a book to the end regardless, but I do know others who feel their time is being wasted if the midpoint isn’t keeping their attention; they will ditch the book in favour of starting something else. This makes the midpoint as critical as any other stage in the novel and writers cannot lose sight of this.

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I am drafting a novel and thought I would jot down some thoughts on the process I am using. At the time of writing I have finished draft three.

Draft one consisted of writing the story, one chapter to the next as quickly as I was able. I ended up with approximately 50K words in three weeks at which point the story naturally came to a conclusion. I was writing from a plan and had the chapters outlined in advance. This allowed me to produce around 2400 words per day. This draft skipped over detail, had various notes as reminders to flesh this part out later and didn’t pay much attention to the words I used. My aim was to see whether I had a story.

Draft two was completed in around four weeks. Here I remove all the words that clutter the page. I’m aware I write them as I work through draft one, but I use them to get my characters from A to B to C. In draft one I’m not concerned about repetition, passive voice, how many times my characters laugh or smile, nod their heads and sigh, sit down, stand up and turn. Draft two sees me delete all ‘had, ‘that’, ‘just’, ‘seem’ and various other words I use in draft one.

I do keep an eye on point of view, I don’t know why. All I know is it helps with subsequent drafts. I also avoid dialogue tags. I find that fairly easy to do, but I suspect some slip by. I like to think I avoid adverbs – we will see.

Draft one is all about getting the story out and down on the page. Draft two tidies up the known bad habits and rewriting of sentences that contain them. Spelling and punctuation are also tidied up at this stage. I transfer any paragraphs or scenes that appeared a good idea at the time, but don’t look so good reading them back. If my gut feels they are cluttering the flow, I remove them to my notes document. Anything that can go without affecting the story or anything that looks possible, but can still be removed for now is taken out. There will be time later to review and put in the necessary effort should it be needed. At this stage I don’t need roadblocks to slow progress. There are other things to fix. I concentrate on the quick wins, as these boost confidence and take me one step closer to finishing. I would expect draft two to be cut by around 10% without losing any of the story.

Draft three I treat each chapter as I do my short stories. Each one is taken in order and finished to a point I would be okay with others reading it. This doesn’t mean it’s ready for publication; it means it doesn’t read so bad I’d rather burn it and start again. With this current novel it took a little over two weeks.

If I had to sum up the key lesson (which is personal) to date, it is this – do not be afraid to delete and rewrite every page. I doubt it would ever be as drastic as that, but you need to keep it in mind and be prepared to do it.

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